Customs officer arrested in bribery case

By Sergio Chapa
Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 1:25 p.m.

A Brownsville customs officer and another man are behind bars as part of investigation into a group that used bribery to smuggle immigrants into the United States.

Federal authorities arrested U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer Javier Cavazos and Rio Grande Valley resident David de la Fuente on Tuesday.

Court records obtained by Action 4 News show that De la Fuente is accused of paying Cavazos bribes to allow illegal immigrants into the United States.

De la Fuente appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan on Wednesday morning where he received a $25,000 bond.

Local CBP spokesman Eddie Perez confirmed that Cavazos was taken into custody on Tuesday.

Perez declined to comment on the case but said Cavazos no longer works for CBP.

Prior his arrest, Cavazos had worked for CBP at the Brownsville Port of Entry and had worked for the agency for the past 16 years.

Court documents show that the case is part of an ongoing investigation into the activities of a human smuggling organization that was bringing illegal immigrants into the United States by bribing a corrupt customs officer.

U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) wrote that they became aware of Cavazos and De la Fuente’s connection to the case following the arrest of an illegal immigrant from France.

Court records show that French citizen Brian Altan was arrested trying to board a plane at the Valley International Airport in Harlingen on December 18th, 2008.

ICE agents allegedly recovered video from the Gateway International Bridge showing Altan, De la Fuente and Cavazos together.

Cavazos is allegedly seen in the video accepting Altan’s passport without inspecting it or running him through routine database checks.

Investigators interviewed De la Fuente on Tuesday where they he allegedly told agents that he went Cavazos’ home in Los Fresnos to get Altan’s passport stamped and get a blank I-91W document.

Altan told investigators he paid $5,000 dollars to be smuggled into the United States.

De la Fuente told agents that he only got to keep $200 while Cavazos took the rest.